Teachers say schools need more staff to improve kids' reading - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Teachers say schools need more staff to improve kids' reading

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Statistics show South Carolina has the 13th highest rate of functional illiteracy in the United States. To get in front of that problem, and the high dropout rate that can result, state lawmakers are proposing a controversial solution.

Early childhood literacy is a hot topic in the legislature this session. It's the basis of all students' future accomplishments.

"It's so much more than looking at the word and figuring out what it means," said Catherine Griggs, first grade teacher at Pontiac Elementary School.

One in five third grade students in South Carolina cannot read at grade level.

"We do need a better plan to ensure the success of all our students," said State Representative Andrew Patrick, who represents the 123rd District in Hilton Head.

That plan, also known as the Read to Succeed Act gives districts the option to hold back students who can't read on grade level by the end of third grade.

But many teachers say the act falls short.

"When you force or demand a child to stay back, just the social, emotional aspect of learning to read, sometimes that can hinder rather than help them move forward," said Griggs.

At a state House Education Committee meeting this week, many expressed their doubts about how effective the Florida-modeled retention system would be.

"There is no proof the students retained in Florida schools became better readers or that their test scores improved," said Jackie Hicks with the South Carolina Education Association.

And teachers say students living in poverty, or who aren't ready to read, regularly face an even greater challenge only extra staffing can fix.

"The more people we have who can replicate that bedtime story moment for those kids who may not have had them, the more we can get to do that, I don't think we would have to wait 'til third grade," said Griggs.

Staff at Pontiac Elementary School say a student who is one grade level behind needs at least 30 minutes of extra instruction each day.

Copyright 2013 WIS.  All rights reserved.

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